Essen, 10 February 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).
Following the controversy reported by the German newspaper Die Zeit, the Museum Folkwang in Essen has taken the decision to cancel its forthcoming exhibition “Balthus: the Last Pictures”. The opening was planned for April and should have included 2,000 photographs taken by the artist.
The photographs by the Franco-Polish artist Balthus (1908-2001) focus, in the most part, on his model Anna, who posed for him between the ages of 8 and 16. The Museum Folkwang explained their concerns regarding the legal consequences which could arise as a result of this exhibition, including possible closure, by way of justifying its decision to cancel. Certain critics, featured in German newspaper Die Zeit, commented that the ambiguous nature of the images could be misinterpreted as pornographic, with young girls striking lascivious and perturbing poses.
Gagosian in New York has already exhibited 155 of these photographs, in parallel with a major Balthus show at the Met, “Balthus: Cats and Girls – Paintings and Provocations”, which closed on 12 January. This exhibition signalled the first time these photographs were displayed to the public, given that this was the first occasion that Balthus’s widow, daughter and Anna had given their permission for the images to be exhibited.
Balthus created his evocative series of young girls from 1934 onwards, for which he is renowned, but which continue to be a source of scandal.